Keyword research is the most fundamental aspect of search engine optimization. Keywords are the building blocks of search engines. This means its important to do your homework.
What Are Keywords?
Keywords are the search terms that users use when Googling something. For example, if a pet owner googles the term veterinarian, the keyword would be veterinarian.
This explains why keywords are so important. Google still categorizes websites and results based on keywords and keyword phrases. You have to make sure that the keywords that your website is categorized in is the same that your users are searching for.
Many people overlook the importance of using the correct keywords in their community. Common examples are Soda and Pop or my personal favorite, Boba and Bubble Tea.
How to Pick the Right Keywords?
The manual way of doing this is simple. Ask your customers or not veterinary friends what words they use when googling your services. This will give you a good idea of what your potential customers may be using.
This is the simplest way of getting started. It doesn’t take very long but you’ll get a lot of good ideas that you can start your research.
Now to the more technical side of Keyword Research. There are many tools that exist that will spit out the most popular keywords. Some of these tools include Google Keyword Planner, Wordstream and Google Trends. For a guide on how to use these, you can check it out here.
Factors that You Should Consider when Picking Keywords
No matter which tool you use, the factors to consider are the same. The factors that are most important include:
- Quantity of Searches
- Relevance & Context
Quantity of Searches
You want to make sure that the keywords you pick are actually being searched for. Thus when doing research it is important to make sure that the sheer volume of searches for the term are enough. Thus when compiling the list, it is a good idea to sort based on volume.
Just because a keyword phrase has many searches doesn’t automatically make it worth ranking for. The next factors will help you determine whether the high volume is worth it.
Relevance & Context
Relevance is the relevancy of the keyword to your business. When businesses want to rank for too many keywords the relevance of the keywords is often compromised. A good example for veterinarians is Animal Health.
Animal Health is definitely related to your veterinary practice. The problem is that the relevance of the term can be a stretch. Animal health does not necessarily mean that a user is looking for a veterinarian.
What a user could be doing is trying to find the best exercises for their animal. What type of food they should by. The possibilities are endless.
This leads to the next point. Context.
Context is a big factor when choosing keywords. And the context in this case is the context that Google has created.
To reuse the Animal Health example, if you were to type it into Google, you would see that the results are not veterinarians.
Rather the search results spit back national organizations that provide a variety of health products. This is not something that you want to be competing for. Google’s context for animal health is animal health pharmaceutical products.
Your intention is to market your veterinary clinic. As you can see there is a discrepancy in context.
This is when it is a good idea to plug in the keywords you have chosen back into Google to see the context of the search results. A good rule of thumb to use is the local context.
If you type in a keyword and the search results spit back local results of veterinarians, you are then on the right path. If you receive national results, trade publications and sellers, you are on the wrong track.
Remember, SEO is not an isolated practice. The essence of SEO is competitive. You are literally competing with all other websites to rank number one for keywords.
Pick your battles. Don’t fight a fight you cannot win. Don’t think that overnight you will be able to be the number one ranked veterinary clinic across the world.
You are fighting against all the big corporate giants backed by massive marketing departments and agencies. With most clinics, your looking at someone in-house doing the work or maybe an independent consulting company doing the work.
That is not a battle you will win. A better strategy is to win your local territory. It is much easier to rank within a city than it is the country. So what this means, compete for terms like “Veterinarian in [your city]”. These are battles you can win.
Establishing a Keyword Bank
When creating a list of keywords or keyword bank, don’t go overboard. Generally a good rule of thumb is to establish 5 – 10 keywords that you want to focus on. The less the better in the beginning.
Because keyword research is the first step of SEO, many people get excited and spend days compiling a list of hundreds of keywords.
Being realistic, your website probably only has 10-15 pages maximum. As you will read in the next section, a best practice is to focus a keyword phrase to a page.
So unless your website has hundreds of pages, you shouldn’t have a huge list of keywords.